Only three players finished above Cole Sillinger in WHL rookie scoring, but Sillinger played 5 less games than the leading scorer and 10 less games than the rookie who finished second. Despite suffering an upper-body injury that saw him miss a month of the season, Sillinger had 45 points through 37 games by the middle of January. That put him at a 1.22 points-per-game pace — the highest by a U-17 player in the WHL since 1990.
Once Sillinger returned from his month-long absence, he recorded three points in his first game back. Though he only played six games before the season ended prematurely, Sillinger amassed four goals and seven points in that span. He played on the top powerplay unit for Medicine Hat and contributed eight goals on the man advantage. Sillinger also fired the third-most shots on goal by any WHL rookie.
Sillinger’s final season point totals put him fourth among Medicine Hat Tigers U-17 players. He also recorded the best numbers in that regard in 35 years. It’s also worth noting that the top three players all played over 60 games. Sillinger probably likely would have surpassed 60 points had he not been injured and the season not been cut short.
Aside from tearing up the WHL offensively, Sillinger shone at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. He wore the ‘A’ for Canada White and scored five goals in six games as the team finished fourth.
Consistently one of the most dominant 16-year olds in the WHL this season, Sillinger shone whenever he stepped onto the ice. Already heavier and stronger than a lot of his 2003-born peers, Sillinger brings a well-rounded skillset to the table that will make him an attractive target in 2021.
Sillinger has a heavy, explosive shot, and his release is definitely NHL-ready. He’s unafraid to shoot the puck and will pepper goaltenders with shots. Sillinger has no hesitations when he has the puck, and picks his plays well — he knows whether to drive the puck to the net, pass it off to a teammate, or to unleash it himself. Sillinger can score from anywhere on the ice and doesn’t need much space to release the puck.
A confident center, Sillinger can beat defenders in a variety of ways. He possesses offensive flare and is an excellent stickhandler. He plays with an edge and reads developing plays and anticipates opponents well. Sillinger’s skating is strong and explosive, allowing him to power past defenders on the rush. His footwork is solid and it doesn’t take him many strides to reach his top speed. Sillinger can also slide himself into areas of the ice where defenders can’t pick up on quickly enough.
When Sillinger wasn’t putting up points this season, he didn’t fade into the background, nor did he let that discourage him. He was active and engaged in the play at both ends of the ice, continued to fire pucks at goaltenders, and would drive to the net in hopes of a bang-in goal.
If his name sounds familiar, it’s likely because Sillinger’s father Mike played for 12 different NHL teams, including the Tampa Bay Lightning from 1998-2000. Cole’s oldest brother Owen plays NCAA hockey at Bemdiji State University and other brother Lukas will join him there next season.
Cole, though, is headed for a much different path — not unlike the one his father took. If his rookie season in the WHL was any indication, the youngest Sillinger is headed for major junior stardom, followed by what will hopefully be a long and successful NHL career.
Strengths: Shot, Offensive Instincts, Skating
Weaknesses: Defensive Consistency
Sillinger is an explosive skater with high-end scoring ability and a knack for making his teammates play better. His defensive play is his weak point, but he’ll be a first-round pick in 2021 regardless. [The Hockey News]
I’d bet on Sillinger becoming an elite scoring offensive winger at the WHL level. He combines all the offensive tools and off ice maturity of an NHL player... A high reward type of selection by the Medicine Hat Tigers. A comparable I will stick to with Sillinger is ex-Medicine Hat Tiger Joffrey Lupul in the sense that both exemplify skill and scoring but rely on there offensive instincts. [Draft Geek]
Cole Sillinger has pro-size and strength and his shot is better than half the NHL already. He dealt with an injury this past season which took him out of action for a bit but the young Medicine Hat Tiger could score 40 goals next season with ease. [Dobber Prospects]
Cole Sillinger managed to pass thru the legs of Tristen Robbins. Sillinger is an absolute beast. pic.twitter.com/qIybsPnQj5— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) December 11, 2019
Statistics from Elite Prospects and the Western Hockey League.